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Oughtism

Somewhere – I forget where – C. S. Lewis refers to the case of St. Augustine and un-baptised babies. As “everybody knows”, Augustine believed that such babies go straight to hell. But we are not entitled, he says, to suppose that Augustine – if he really did think that they did – was happy with this fact, or believed that it ought to happen.

Instead, Augustine took his beliefs from scripture, reason and other sources, other, that is, than what he believed ought or ought not to be the case. So many people today don’t think like this. They are happy to believe a variety of things which, if examined, turn out to be a collection of what they think things ought or ought not, should or should not, be true.

The “hard”, or seemingly-hard, sayings of Jesus are quickly dismissed, along with any reference to God’s judgment, because of course, such things ought never to be allowed, and therefore – the logic goes – they can be made not to exist, simply by thinking them out of existence.

Oughtism – perhaps a lot of it should actually be called ought-notism - can be found everywhere, even in churches. Oughtism, of course, is a product of that curse of our age, post-modern subjectivism, the mindless (lack of) thinking which causes otherwise-seemingly rational people seriously to believe that their “truth” is just as valid as the next person’s, however different, and that whatever they choose to believe can simply be real, while not affecting the next person’s “truth”.

The reasonable person does not believe such things for a moment, and honest people accept that however things are, in reality, they will probably not be ordered as they are by anything that you or I care to think about them.

A lot of Christian oughtism is based upon belief in the total and utter nature of God’s love for us. God is love, that we know, and his love can result in absolutely anything. Thus oughtists are quite certain to be sceptical about ideas of what God has not allowed, or has required, in all the traditional formulations of law and morality.

Because God loves us so much, he cannot have really proclaimed that we cannot do that, or must do this, he cannot, would not – this thinking goes – ask us to act against our nature … and they fall readily into the mistake of believing that God has made us as we are, failing to understand the world we live in now.

Such people, like all oughtists, replace any notion of God that we find in scripture or Christian tradition, with one of their own making; because I would not require such a thing – it ought not to be required, in my view – then neither ought God, who is promptly re-made in my own image. And oughtists readily fall into the trap of believing that humans are originally, inherently good – because, of course, that is how they ought to be, how we would all like them to be, how things should have been ordered … and hence they arrive at the opposite of the optimistic doctrine; the road to hell, they quickly forget, is paved with the very best of intentions.

Oughtist Christians are very tiresome, almost as much so as oughtist Humanist/Materialists; both choose to escape into the world of wishful thinking, but once having done so, they are often apt to look down from their moral high-ground upon the rest of us with a certain disdain.